Ryan Bader Aware He’ll Be ‘Bad Guy’ Against Fedor in Bellator 290 Headliner

Ryan Bader admittedly wasn’t initially excited about the prospects of a rematch with Fedor Emelianenko.

It didn’t take him too long to come around.

“At first I kind of felt that way, and then I started thinking about it,” Bader said at a press conference on Wednesday. “Being on CBS was a big factor. Anytime you’re in a Fedor fight it’s a huge fight. I’m proud to be a part of his legacy and for him to be a part of mine.

“It’s hard to turn down a Fedor fight. I didn’t necessarily know it was going to be his last one. It’s one of those things where I got more excited about it and when I finally put pen to paper, I was all in.”

Bader initially faced Emelianenko in the finals of the heavyweight grand prix at Bellator 214, where he claimed the belt with a 35-second technical knockout victory. The Power MMA Team stalwart isn’t taking away much from that first meeting — in large part because of the abbreviated nature of the fight. He expects the rematch, which is set for the Bellator 290 headliner on Saturday, will be a completely different affair.

“There’s a few things [I can take away]. Thirty-five seconds there’s one punch thrown — you can’t take much,” he said. “This is a whole new fight. Every fight I go out there thinking I’m fighting 25 minutes, that my opponent’s the best he’s ever been.  I’m not resting on what happened last fight. I can’t bring that fight into this fight.”

When Bader initially captured the heavyweight crown, he was a simultaneous two-division champion in Bellator. He has sinced relinquished the light heavyweight strap and will be attempting to make his third successful title defense at heavyweight. With that said, the majority of the attention heading into the card has gone to Emelianenko, who will retire after the bout — win or lose. While Bader is still working on carving out his own legacy, he believes his Russian foe has earned the acclaim.

“He deserves it. He’s a legend of the sport. I respect that man and what he’s done for the sport,” Bader said. “Don’t get me wrong, I know walking in there I’d be doing the same if I’m watching Fedor’s last fight — I’m cheering for him. I like to do that. I like to see those legends go out on top.

“Make no mistake, I know people are going to be rooting for him. On the flip side, I have a job to do and my job is to spoil that party, retain that belt, win that fight and move on. There will be respect there no matter what.”

With all the hoopla surrounding Emelianenko’s swan song, Bader is aware that “The Last Emperor” will be a strong sentimental favorite come Saturday night. He gets it. But that won’t prevent him from doing everything in his power to complete his own objective.

“Me going out there and doing my job and winning, I’m the bad guy,” he said. “You want to see those guys go out on a win. But I’m in that position. What am I gonna do, go in there and fold up for him? I’m going to do my job. I’ve got a job to do at the end of the day.”
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